written by Rita F. Bartholomew
using information obtained from an interview with
Hearl Devello Whatcott, son of Henry Whatcott
Henry Whatcott was the eldest child of Alfred Whatcott and Isabelle Paxton. Although he was only a small boy of eight years when his father died, he remembered the unusual events surrounding that death and recounted them to his children.
On May 11, 1865, his father Alfred was sent across the Sevier River to obtain posts for the settlement. Though the river was quite high, Alfred crossed it safely and commenced cutting the trees for posts. It was on the return trip across the river that the accident occurred. His load of posts capsized and he was thrown into the river. He was unable to make it to shore.
When the town learned of the accident, men were sent to recover his body as well as the posts which he had been bringing back. Most of the posts were recovered, but the men who were searching were unable to locate his body. They searched for several days, but to no avail. Then one day Henry’s Uncle John Black came to their home with an interesting story to tell.
One afternoon as John was working in his cabin, which was near to where Alfred had drowned, he looked up from his work and saw Alfred standing in the doorway.
John was greatly surprised and exclaimed that he thought Alfred was drowned.
Alfred agreed that he was dead, but explained that those who were searching for his body had passed by it several times, unable to see it under some of the posts he had been hauling. The posts were hidden behind a clump of bushes around a bend in the river.
Alfred described the place so exactly that John was able to recognize it later when he saw it. Alfred then asked that some men be sent out on a raft to get his body.
John Black lost no time in coming to his wife’s sister, Isabelle. Men were soon sent out to find the body. They found the place just as John had said and, sure enough, behind the clump of bushes there was a pile of some of the posts Alfred had cut and under the posts was his body. Since it had decomposed quite a bit, having been in the water for about three weeks, and was not in a condition to be moved very far, they decided to bury it near the river. Alfred Whatcott was buried on June 1, 1865.
Shortly before his Uncle John died, Henry paid him a visit. John Black told the story the same as before, swearing that it was absolutely true. Henry pressed still further asking if his Uncle John was sure he hadn’t been dreaming. John responded that he had not been dreaming; he had been wide awake; it had been in the afternoon. He had been as wide awake as he was right then.
Henry asked him what Alfred had done after they had talked. Uncle John said that after Alfred had given the message he had just smiled and faded away.